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OCU Honors Famous Naturalist’s 200th with Special Program
Even though scientists believe evolution has been an ongoing process for billions of years, the man most famous for the scientific theory is a mere 200 years old. And Oklahoma City University is planning a special event for Feb. 12 in honor of Charles Darwin’s big day, which also happens to be Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday. As part of the celebration, OCU will host a lecture at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12 from world-renowned ethnobotanist and author Mark Plotkin, who wrote “The Shaman’s Apprentice” and “The Medicine Quest.” The lecture will be held in OCU’s Petree Recital Hall. Plotkin traded his comfortable lifestyle in the U.S. for the South American jungles in search of natural healing plants and medicinal techniques of ancient peoples. In “The Shaman’s Apprentice,” Plotkin relays his experiences of befriending “witch doctors” in the Amazon in his quest for their versions of conventional healing practices. Susan Barber, OCU associate provost and professor of biology, explained her desire to organize a celebration for Darwin’s birthday and talked about why the Plotkin visit is the fitting way to do so. “Both scientists had a craving for adventure and a strong desire to uncover the mysteries of nature,” Barber said. “We have been working to get Plotkin to our campus for a long time, to share with us his interesting findings from remote areas. He’s one of the great naturalists of our time and is gifted at telling stories about his travels and experiences.” The arts and sciences college might have the most interest in the Darwin milestone, but it wasn’t the only group on campus to take notice. The Student Government Association and the Distinguished Speakers Series committee also wanted to be involved, and the event snowballed into a series of discussion sessions and a documentary film showing leading up to and following the guest speaker. “Most individuals recognize Darwin as the author of ‘The Origin of Species,’ but he was a prolific writer widely known as an important natural historian as well,” Barber added, pointing out that Darwin’s interests and research varied from pollination biology to the instincts of earthworms, besides his seminal studies conducted on the Galapagos Islands.